Dandruff is a common but annoying condition that affects a person’s scalp. A Proctor and Gamble study found that more than 50% of people in the US experience dandruff at some point during their lives.
Is dandruff a permanent condition?
Dandruff is a chronic condition, meaning that it can’t be “cured.” By this definition one could consider dandruff a “permanent condition.”
Severe cases of dandruff can be difficult to treat, but most cases can be controlled and many clear up on their own as a person ages.
Dandruff is most common during a person’s 20’s, but can occur at any age. The condition can be annoying and embarrassing, but it is not contagious.
People who have never experienced dandruff tend to see the condition as linked to bad hygiene, which gives you another reason to want to get rid of those pesky flakes.
Keep reading for tips about dandruff removal and how you can treat the condition on your own with common household and kitchen ingredients.
Dandruff symptoms are (unfortunately) easy to spot: white flakes of dead skin in the hair/ on the shoulders and also an itchy scalp.
In many cases the flakes look oily, which is one reason the condition is wrongly associated with dirtiness and bad hygiene.
Dandruff often gets worse during colder months, when indoor heating can exacerbate dry skin, and improves during warmer months.
There are several causes of dandruff, ranging from simple dry skin to underlying conditions like seborrheic dermatitis.
Causes of dandruff include:
- Inadequate shampooing: If you don’t shampoo your hair often enough, oil and dead skin cells can build up at the roots and cause dandruff.
- Malassezia: This is a yeast-like fungus that exists on the scalps of most people. For some individuals, malassezia irritates the scalp and can cause excess production of skin cells (we don’t know why this happens).
- Contact dermatitis: Sensitivity to hair products can be a contributing factor.
- Dry skin: If this is the cause of your dandruff, skin flakes will be small and dry (not oily). Inflammation/redness is unlikely.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: This is a skin condition marked by red, oily skin covered in yellow scales or white flakes. Seborrheic dermatitis can manifest in other areas, like the armpits, sternum, sides of the nose, groin, and backs of the ears.
You are more likely to have dandruff if you are male, have oily skin, and suffer from conditions like Parkinson’s disease and HIV.
Tips for homemade dandruff removal
In many cases, you can treat dandruff on your own at home, without ever visiting a doctor.
1. Tea tree oil: Use shampoos that contain tea tree oil, or add few drops to your regular shampoo.
2. Use baking soda instead of shampoo: Apply a handful of the white powder into your hair; let sit for 1-2 minutes, then rinse. Baking soda has been effective in reducing the type of fungi which can cause dandruff.
Warning: your hair may dry out when you start using baking soda, but it will be back to normal after few weeks.
3. Apple cider vinegar: The high acidity present in apple cider vinegar has been shown to change the pH level of your scalp, which makes it harder for yeast to grow.
Mix ¼ cup water with ¼ cup apple cider vinegar. Use a spray bottle to spritz the solution onto your scalp. Tie your hair into a bun or wrap a towel around it and let sit for 15-30 minutes. Follow with regular shampoo. Repeat twice per week for best results.
4. Lemon juice: Lemons also have a high acidity that can deter yeast. Massage 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into your scalp; let the lemon juice sit in your hair while you mix 1 cup water with 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Rinse with water and then rinse with the lemon/water mixture. Repeat once per day for best results.
5. Mouthwash: Alcohol-based mouthwash has anti-fungal properties, which in addition to preventing bad breath can prevent yeast from growing on your scalp.
Rinse your hair with mouthwash after washing with regular shampoo. Follow up with conditioner if desired.
6. Coconut oil: Coconut oil is one of those “tried and true” scalp treatments for dandruff. Using your fingertips, massage around 3-5 tablespoons of this sweet-smelling oil to your scalp. Let the oil sit in your hair for about 60 minutes. Rinse and shampoo normally.
7. Table salt: Take a regular salt shaker from the kitchen and shake a good amount onto your scalp (on dry hair). Massage the salt into your skin to exfoliate the scalp and scrub out dandruff. Follow up with shampoo.
You can purchase anti-dandruff shampoo at most grocery stores and pharmacies. Here are a few we recommend:
- Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo (active ingredient ketoconazole)
- Head & Shoulders (active ingredient zinc pyrithione)
- Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo (active ingredient coal tar)
- DHS brand shampoos (active ingredients include zinc and tar)
**Do not use products containing coal tar on blonde hair
Another tip is to crush two aspirin into a fine powder and mix it in with your shampoo each time you wash your hair. Aspirin contains salicylic acid, which is one of the active ingredients used in medicated shampoos. Make sure to leave the shampoo in your hair for 1-2 minutes before rinsing. Follow up with normal shampoo.
More tips to reduce/prevent dandruff:
- Try your best to manage stress; stress can exacerbate dandruff symptoms
- Shampoo regularly; use of dry shampoo can help those with oily skin
- Spend time in the sun but avoid tanning
Other facts about dandruff
“Cradle cap” is a type of dandruff that affects newborns. Symptoms include a scaly, crusty head that can look alarming but generally clear up on its own.
Call a doctor for severe dandruff treatment
If over-the-counter shampoos aren’t minimizing your symptoms and/or if your scalp looks red and swollen, you may have seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, or a fungal infection of the scalp. In this case, it’s time to call a doctor or dermatologist.
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